Don’t spend a birthday party standing over the stove when you could be talking to the guest of honor. Make Crock-Pot snacks ahead of time, then line them up on the counter and plug them in. Having guests serve themselves can get messy, so set a stack of napkins next to each pot and replace the serving spoons with clean ones every 30 minutes or so.
Eating with your hands is one of the joys of a casual party, so whip up some dips. Crock-Pots are ideal for dips because they’ll keep the dips at a constant temperature without burning them. Make a spicy nacho cheese or broccoli cheddar dip, or make a beer dip if the guests are all over 21 years old. Set out baskets of tortilla chips and pretzels next to each dip as well as plates, ladles and small bowls so guests can put together a plate and walk away with it.
Soup isn’t fitting at a summer party, but it’s warm and comforting in winter months, and it’s easy to make soup out of the guest of honor’s favorite ingredients. For instance, if she’s a seafood lover, make a lobster bisque or clam chowder. If she loves the fall, make a spicy pumpkin soup or a potato leek soup that includes apples. For a vegetarian, make a spicy bean chili or a chunky potato soup that includes corn, broccoli and cheddar cheese.
Cooking meat at a low temperature for a long time makes it juicy and tender, so throw some meat into your Crock-Pot on the morning of the party. Meat dishes are optimal if there’s going to be a sit-down dinner, though some meat options will also work as appetizers. Meatballs are fine for either scenario; let them simmer in homemade marinara sauce and set out a bowl of shredded Parmesan cheese next to the Crock-Pot. Pulled pork seasoned with plenty of spices will also be a hit with both children and adults. Provide hamburger buns to accompany the dish.
Even if there’s a birthday cake on hand, having a second or third dessert available gives guests options. Chocolate fondue is easy to make, since it only requires chocolate chips and heavy cream. Provide chunks of fruit, graham crackers and chunks of pound cake, along with long toothpicks, so guests can dip their treat of choice into the chocolate. For a healthy dessert option, make homemade applesauce flavored with plenty of cinnamon and ginger. Set out a bowl of granola for guests to sprinkle on top of their applesauce.
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